blogs, forums and declawing cats. an article for words i’ve just written.
january 2003 marks the anniversary of some discussion forums on the intranet, you’ve probably used them, or at the very least turned them off – if you are using them, thank you, i’ll get onto you in a moment, but if you’re not using them, or you’re not using them regularly, please allow me to take this opportunity to explain why you should, why they’re powerful and how they can aid the way you communicate with your team, people in your office and people within the authority.
some concerns you may have about using the discussion forums.
1) “my opinions aren’t worth anything” – nonsense, in fact the fact that you think this, probably means that your opinions are a little out of left field, perhaps not quite what you think everyone else thinks, or perhaps not quite what you think everyone else thinks you think. still with me? what i’m trying to say is that please try to remember, it’s the crazy ones that actually make things happen in this world, so please for your own sake, come and share your ideas – i’ll thank you for it.
2) “people will laugh at me” – people post questions on the discussion forums about declawing cats. you have nothing to fear, really.
3) “i don’t have time” – if you’re trying to solve a particular problem, or want to know what people think, the discussion forums are actually far more powerful than a huge string of emails are ever going to be, plus you can get multiple people involved, without doing a ‘Reply to All’ and irritating the people you’re trying to communicate with. you can spare 15 minutes a day to check the current topics on the intranet, it’s all on the front page, you don’t even need to look for it – plus you can subscribe to topics you’re involved with, and receive an email whenever someone replies.
using them couldn’t really be any easier.
if you’re reading a topic you want to reply to, click the ‘reply to topic’ button. just type your message and click ‘post’ – that’s it.
if however you want to start your own topic, find the most appropriate place for it (and don’t worry if it’s wrong, someone will move it) and click ‘new topic’ – give your topic a subject and then type your initial entry, click post. you’re done.
so, now you know all about the forums, perhaps you’d like a little history lesson on just how they came to be? give it a chance, it might just be interesting…
when i joined in the authority at christmas 2001, the only discussion forums we had were a bunch of work related ones which nobody used, so i took some time and basing my work on an existing forum product – Snitz Forums 2000 (www.snitz.com) I was able to take the existing code, some of which I’d written myself in the years prior to joining the Authority anyway, and modify it and add my own changes and generally hack it to what I wanted. It’s quite different from the original product now.. What allowed me to take someone else’s code and use it freely without paying a single penny? Free software – I hope to cover this in a future issue[/// , but for now just understand this very wonderful idea… software that is free (as in free speech, not free as in free lunch – though most free software is also available to download for no cost) – you get all the code and you can use it in your own products, providing you understand that your product needs to be offered under the same license. – this bit can be removed if space is an issue – matt 🙂 /// ]
A year on, with over 3500 individual comments, a limited weblogging functionality (with an huge improvement coming VERY soon), we’ve made some great improvements in functionality, and with the forums about to replace the old style forums on the Web and NHSWeb sites, we’re doing pretty good for a project that has just one developer working on it in his spare time (in fact, it’s 11.14pm as I write this…)
Thanks very much to all Richard, George and Davie, the moderators, plus Beth, Rob, Heather, Paul and Howard, the standby admins, and thanks to Kieran for having the courage to post some crazy posts indeed. Oh, and declawing cats is cruel, so please don’t do that – especially not in the office.
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